Bitcoin has had a truly remarkable year. Even with periods of volatility, the cryptocurrency has gained over 1200% since the beginning of 2017 to reach heights of over $14000, with its market cap rising to more than $229 billion.
Some are concerned that Bitcoin might pose a threat to the U.S. dollar. Others worry that this is only a bubble, drawing comparisons to the Dot-Com crash in 1999 and 2000. But generally speaking Bitcoin's continued surge is causing quite a bit of excitement.
There are several reasons why Bitcoin is is on such a successful run, but one involves the announcement that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, an independent agency of the U.S. government that regulates futures and option markets, last week gave the go-ahead to list Bitcoin futures on two of the largest futures markets globally.
Nasdaq has also thrown its hat in the ring, announcing that it will trade Bitcoin futures starting in Q2 of 2018.
The Bitcoin futures will come with price limits and margin rates. CBOE will have a margin rate of 30%, while CME will set its at 35%. The CME will use price limits that could slow or potentially stop trading.
The launch of these futures will help establish Bitcoin as more than a scam, lending it both liquidity and legitimacy that it needs to avoid being dismissed as a fraud or a scam.
Traders generally embrace volatility, and with stock market volatility at a historic low, many have embraced Bitcoin fully to fill the void. But derivatives will appeal to more cautious casual investors and traders who have thus most part avoided Bitcoin due to its capriciousness, as they will be able to gamble more easily on the price of Bitcoin while also limiting their exposure.
These futures might eventually give way to the approval of Bitcoin exchange-traded funds, or ETFs. The Security and Exchange Commission earlier this year denied Bitcoin ETF applications, including one put forth by freshly-minted Bitcoin billionaires the Winklevoss twins, on the basis that the cryptocurrency was unregulated.
But Ed Tilly, the head of CBOE, plans to reapply on the basis that since a futures market exists, the cryptocurrency is now sufficiently "regulated" to commence ETFs.
Other countries have opened up to ETFs. The Swedish Bitcoin ETF alone is now bigger than 80% of U.S. ETFs.
Even if Bitcoin's success does not prove lasting, blockchain, the technology that enables Bitcoin, is likely to remain. Four sponsors filed for blockchain ETFs. Many believe that blockchain has incredible prospects, as many large institutions hope to integrate it into their future designs for financial infrastructure.